A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

The Challenges of Going Global

By Mason Spirit contributor on October 25, 2011

With respect to all of Mason’s global activities, I think our China activities have been some of the most exciting and groundbreaking. The China 1+2+1 program has brought students to us from incredible institutions in China, students who contribute to campus life in ways we never imagined, and it has allowed us to meet the presidents and leaders of the top Chinese universities.

Provost Peter Stearns’s vision of and leadership in making Mason a global university have been extremely important, and the knowledge of every aspect of China has been key in this success. We are very fortunate to have someone such as Madelyn Ross, director of China initiatives, working for us. I have been coached and directed by Madelyn at events in Beijing and Shanghai more times than I can count. Her language skills give her a real advantage, but it is more than that. She truly understands the culture, and that makes all the difference.

Globalization has to be top down and bottom up. From the top down, you need to have university initiatives and support. We have that. On the other hand, you don’t want to control globalization too much. We have faculty who have professional relationships all over the world, and we don’t want to control that. Universities have gotten into trouble by trying too hard to focus the global dimensions, and they have lost some of the entrepreneurism faculty members have with respect to their research, teaching, and scholarship.

But there is a downside to globalization.

On one of my trips to the Middle East, I went to Syria. I met some very nice people, spoke at Damascus University, and spent more than an hour with President Assad. As a result, I’m in pain when I see what’s happening over there. There is no lesson to be learned here, but we need to realize that when you deal with globalization, you don’t just get involved with countries, you get involved with people.

When I see what’s going on there, I wonder what’s happened to my friends. I wonder will I ever go back because I loved Damascus. Will I ever want to go back? I’m struggling with this.

Going global is not easy. It is not easy to make things happen abroad because things are different there. It requires more time and attention. And you can be caught, as I am, between reading an article to learn more about the country and reading an article thinking about your friends.

Everyday I read about what’s going on over there and look for names I know. Our faculty continues to have links with Syrian colleagues, so the story may not be over there. I felt good about the investment I made personally in Syria. I hope I can continue feel good about it.

Alan Merten

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